Barrie, opioid

My Thoughts On The Discussion At The Barrie-Innisfil Candidate’s Forum Regarding The Opioid Crisis

I was not able to attend the Barrie-Innisfil Candidates Forum. But I was happy to learn from the media that the opioid crisis was (not surprisingly) a topic of discussion. Thank you to all of the candidates for their input and dedication to this topic. With all due respect, at this time, I would like to elaborate on/clarify a few points made by NDP candidate, Pekka Reinio.

“We need to address the opioid crisis,” Reinio said. “It seems like the municipal council is stalling for now, and I don’t know why.” Barrie Today, October 4, 2019.

The municipal council is not stalling with respect to the opioid crisis; I think it is very important to remember that management of the opioid crisis includes MUCH more than the approval of a supervised consumption site. Actions are being taken as we speak by some councillors that address the crisis and call for better fulsome treatment options. In fact, I am having a meeting today in Toronto at Women’s College Hospital, with the META:PHI directors to discuss funding in Barrie and complementing treatment options. I will also be meeting with the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Michael Tibillo, on October 11, 2019, to continue the discussions I had with him, Mayor Jeff Lehman, and fellow councillors at the Association of Municipalities (AMO) Conference in Ottawa this past August.

The NDP candidate said if his party was elected, they would immediatey declare national crisis on opioids, “hopefully freeing some money so municipalities can follow the guidelines of the Simcoe Muskoka (Opioid Strategy), which says we need to have safe injection sites.” Barrie Today, October 4, 2019.

I agree, declaring a national emergency on the opioid crisis, (which I proposed to council early last year), is ideal with respect to securing provincial and federal funds that will save lives. But once again, I think it is very important to remember that the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) identifies several pillars dedicated to addressing this crisis, beyond harm reduction.

What we have is MORE than an opioid crisis. We have a mental health and addiction crisis. Overall, I have been very much in favour of having a supervised consumption site in Barrie, but I am afraid that the discussion and debate surrounding this has caused some of our community and policy makers to unintentionally under-acknowledge the fact that fulsome treatment is really what is required to make a major change in the opioid crisis.

Any funds available should be used for all of SMOS’s pillars; prevention, treatment and clinical practice, harm reduction, enforcement and emergency management. And when we look at these pillars under a social welfare microscope, these pillars further extend into housing, education and overall health and wellness.

So what does all of this mean to me as Ward 6 City Councillor in Barrie? Well, overall I am so happy that the discussion surrounding the opioid crisis is vibrant among all of our federal candidates. I look forward to working with whomever is elected to tackle this topic and save lives.

Barrie, opioid

Here To Help – Barrie

Here To Help – Barrie, is a grassroots volunteer group who walk the streets of Barrie and provide resource material/pamphlets to anyone in need. Our mission is to compliment services already available and provide meaningful connection with the marginalized. Do you have a community resource you would like us to share? Just send me a message. You can find us on Facebook under, “Here To Help – Barrie”.

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Barrie, opioid

Meeting With RAAM and MPPs

Today I had a wonderful meeting with the Rapid Action Addiction Medicine (RAAM) managers, Attorney General Doug Downey, MPP Andrea Khanjin, mothers who have lost their children to a drug overdose and fellow advocate Marc Hanuman.

We discussed the following:

– Adding an RN to the staff of the withdrawal management team (detox)

– Improving advertising of the RAAM

– Making Barrie’s RAAM open 24/7

– Developing a pilot project in Barrie that offers a satellite treatment centre in cooperation with RVH

– Adding a staff member to the RAAM clinic who would liaise with RVH’s emergency department and the RAAM

– Increase volunteer peer-support positions with lived-experience individuals

– Begin communication with the paramedic services base-hospital physician to potentially create a diversion protocol for stable withdrawal patients

…and so much more.

I will be setting a follow-up meeting ASAP. The discussion around the table was very promising!

Barrie, opioid

“The Addict” – A Poem

I decided to write a poem instead of an insomnia thought tonight:

The Addict

I know you’re hanging by a thread,
I understand what’s in your head.
Chaos whirlwinds all around;
Needle piles are on the ground.
Never know if you’ll be sold;
Recovery takes you being bold.
Sick and searching to be free;
No time for purpose, just time for me.
Dedicate your life to change;
So many lives to rearrange.
Tough times living in the low;
But then again it’s all you know.
Confusing minds are set to fail;
While suffering minds are sent to jail.
Don’t take your precious eyes off me;
Don’t let addiction make you flee.
Help is scarce but it’s still there;
No need to drown in self despair.
Your destiny is soaring free;
Beyond the night, so much to be.
Live and jump on chandeliers;
Scream for freedom from your fears.
You’re gorgeous but you’re filled with dark;
Release the pain that left a mark.
Lift your head up from the ground;
There’s always hope this time around.

Barrie, opioid

“The Addict” – A Poem

I decided to write a poem instead of an insomnia thought tonight:

The Addict

I know you’re hanging by a thread,
I understand what’s in your head.
Chaos whirlwinds all around;
Needle piles are on the ground.
Never know if you’ll be sold;
Recovery takes you being bold.
Sick and searching to be free;
No time for purpose, just time for me.
Dedicate your life to change;
So many lives to rearrange.
Tough times living in the low;
But then again it’s all you know.
Confusing minds are set to fail;
While suffering minds are sent to jail.
Don’t take your precious eyes off me;
Don’t let addiction make you flee.
Help is scarce but it’s still there;
No need to drown in self despair.
Your destiny is soaring free;
Beyond the night, so much to be.
Live and jump on chandeliers;
Scream for freedom from your fears.
You’re gorgeous but you’re filled with dark;
Release the pain that left a mark.
Lift your head up from the ground;
There’s always hope this time around.

Barrie, opioid, ward 6

My response to Linda Lee Logan about my contribution to raising public awareness and preventing overdose deaths in the community during the opioid epidemic.

 

Dear Linda Lee Logan,

I am writing to you as the Ward 6 Barrie City Councillor in response to your request for comments regarding my contribution to raising public awareness and to preventing overdose deaths in the community during the opioid epidemic.

As you may already know, I am a retired Advanced Care Paramedic, making my contribution to saving lives from opioid deaths begin many years ago. I have seen patients die from suspected opioid overdoses right before my very eyes – more times than I can count. Before I retired due to a diagnosis of PTSD in 2014, the opioid epidemic was dramatically increasing, and I have been informed by current paramedics in the County of Simcoe that they now attend multiple suspected opioid overdose calls on a daily basis.

I have seen the horror of grief cross the faces of family members who have lost a loved one to this epidemic. And I also know the devastating effects these calls have on first responders, so in 2015, with the help of other community heroes across Canada, I developed a free peer support model that is now being used in over 30 cities across Canada. It is called Wings of Change and you can find it at http://wingsofchange.wixsite.com/wingsofchange.

As Ward 6 City Councillor, since October 2018, I have done the following to raise public awareness about the opioid epidemic and to contribute to saving lives in our community:

  • I requested that City Council declare a public health emergency with respect to the opioid epidemic and request funding from the federal and provincial governments to increase opioid trafficking enforcement, treatment, prevention and education;
  • I have met several times with representatives from the David Busby Centre, The Gilbert Centre, the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit and members of the Simcoe-Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) to ask difficult questions about SMOS’s due diligence with respect to the federal and provincial applications for a supervised consumption site;
  • I have travelled to Guelph, Ontario, to visit a supervised consumption site and to meet with Guelph’s Mayor Cam Guthrie, the facilitators of the program, and a representative from the Guelph Police Service;
  • I have worked directly with MP Alex Nuttal and supported his request that the federal government declare an opioid public health emergency, and participated in a town hall meeting he hosted regarding Barrie’s proposed supervised consumption site;
  • I have met with MPP Andrea Khanjin to discuss the potential development of a provincial mental health hub which would include addiction and drug abuse support;
  • I have met with parents who have lost children to this epidemic many times;
  • I have met with the Director of the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) and asked how I could help to increase their hours of operation;
  • I am scheduled to meet with the Attorney General Doug Downey, MPP Andrea Khanjin, family members affected by the opioid epidemic, the Director of the Barrie Rapid Access Addiction Medicine, and a fellow advocate, on July 9th to discuss increasing funding to the RAAM’s services so that they can be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
  • I am scheduled to meet with the Director of the Newmarket Treatment Centre on July 11th, and have spoken to Homewood Health representatives about the possibility of bringing a satellite treatment centre to Barrie;
  • I carry naloxone in my glove-box;
  • I have arranged a meeting with the Creative Barrie department, family members who have lost children to this epidemic, and a fellow advocate to discuss the development of a memorial which will be located in Barrie to remember those who we have lost to opioid related deaths;
  • I work one-on-one with the marginalized in Barrie and provide them with resources and support;
  • I have spoken about my personal experience with addiction and recovery at the Barrie Alcohol-Drug Withdrawal Centre (Detox), and 12-step meetings many times.

Looking to the future, I will continue to support the application of a supervised consumption site in Barrie, and will share my own recovery journey whenever required in order to help our community heal and grow beyond this epidemic.

I welcome the opportunity to sit down and speak with you further about my endeavours, and thank you so much for the advocacy work you do with the organization, Mom Stop The Harm.

It may seem as if their is little hope in eradicating this epidemic, but I will not stop fighting to find new ways to save lives and prevent anyone else from seeing the horror of grief cross a parent’s face.

Sincerely,

Natalie Harris

Ward 6 Barrie City Councillor

BHSc, AEMCA, ACP (ret.)